An Ode to the Jutaku

Aha. Long time no… write? Oh dear it’s almost been two months since I posted on here. I did have a wonderfully busy (and very cold) two months over December and January. My boyfriend was able to visit over the Christmas and New Year period, which was lovely! Lots of time was spent huddling under the kotatsu in my poorly insulated jutaku.. which was charming in it’s own way but so cold I feared I’d lose my tootsies. But I have decided my favourite thing (does it count as an appliance? It’s a weird hybrid I guess) is my kotatsu.

(I’ve already come to terms with the fact that shipping this bad-boy home will be impossible, so have taken to searching for tutorials on how to build one myself..)

Now, if you aren’t aware of the Japanese “kyoshokuin jutaku”, let me fill you in a little. These are teachers housing, some of which were built at least 40 or so years ago. The official name is that, “kyoshokuin jutaku” but we all affectionately call it “the jutaku” which pretty much just means living space. Because they are pretty old, most Japanese teachers actually don’t live in them – in fact of the 18 apartments in our block, only 9 are inhabited, all by non-Japanese ALTs.

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From when I moved in back in 2015 – this is just one of the rooms!

They’re HUGE by Japanese standards, the average jutaku apartment having 3 tatami rooms, a separate kitchen, a toilet and a shower/bathroom, plus a genkan (entrance). Two of the tatami rooms also have very large cupboards with sliding doors, which go from the floor to the ceiling, so storage space is NOT an issue. Many also have a balcony, which spans the length of the apartment and will be where your washing machine is. I have this entire apartment to myself and currently, most inaka/semi-urban placed ALTs will be housed in jutakus because they’re owned by the Board of Education. They’re subsidised too, which means the rent is stupidly cheap. This can offset the pain felt when you realise that the because the buildings are old they are freezing in winter, and prone to creepy crawly friends in the summer.

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As you can see, it’s a traditional space!

I found this guy dead in my cupboard in December. A lot of screaming ensued.

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The average non-teachers apartment will be known as a 1LDK or 2LDK which pretty much means you get one or two small rooms, a separate small bathroom and shower room (without windows so are vented) and the kitchen, washing machine and genkan are all usually combined. They are MUCH smaller than the jutaku apartments and I believe it is rare for ALTs to be subsidised for this, so the rent can be 3-4 times more than what jutaku dwelling ALTs pay. I guess the perks however are that they are less prone to creepy crawlies and you have much more choice in where to live.

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The balcony view

The reason I have decided to jump back into the blog with an ode to the jutaku is that last year it was announced that the Fukuoka BOE is beginning the process of demolishing all the remaining teacher’s housing in the region. Ours is set to be demolished in Spring 2019, a year after my contract ends. So of course, I won’t be living there and that means that I will very likely be the last person to live in the apartment that I do now. That is a very bitter sweet thought because:

  • This is the first apartment I have ever lived in entirely alone
  • This is the first place I have ever lived in in another country
  • We have a special little community in our building.
  • I’ve had so many experiences in the short space of time that I have lived in it, so many visitors, and many many more of both yet to come.

 

So.. yes. New year, almost half way through my tenure as a JET programme ALT – I felt like now was a good time to write a little reflection on the space that I have called home all this time.

Oh, jutaku. I hated you when I first moved in. I thought you were dirty and weird and in the middle of nowhere. But with a bit of love, quite a bit of paint and some home furnishings you have become my very special home and I’m glad I’m going to be living here for a while yet.

I wonder what the future holds for ALTs to come? It’ll be a new era for the JET programme that’s for sure!

(a era filled with less creepy crawlies… that’s for sure…)

 

p.s I’ll add some more pictures in a while.

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